Many help in starting of new Hillsboro bakeryDan Christianson and Ed Olsen arrived at 5 a.m. Friday with lawn chairs and two propane heaters. The early arrivals weren’t seeking flat screens or the latest technology, however. The products in demand were pastries, at the much-anticipated Our Town Bakery opening on Main Street in Hillsboro.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
HILLSBORO, N.D. — Dan Christianson and Ed Olsen arrived at 5 a.m. Friday with lawn chairs and two propane heaters — one to heat themselves and the other to heat their coffee.
It was Black Friday all over again.
The early arrivals weren’t seeking flat screens or the latest technology, however. The products in demand were pastries, at the much-anticipated Our Town Bakery opening on Main Street.
The two retirees weren’t alone. Sixteen people were lined up when the doors opened at 6 a.m., with a steady stream in the morning.
Sweets weren’t the only attraction. The attendees also were there to see and celebrate the efforts of local residents who saved the building from becoming rubble.
“I named it ‘Our Town’ after all the volunteers who worked on this place and the people who saved the building,” owner Amanda Johnson said.
“I’ve never thought of this as mine. It’s ours.”
Volunteers help with start-up
Amanda arrived in Hillsboro 15 months ago with husband Joe Johnson, who was straight out of seminary to become the pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran. A culinary school student, she learned of the availability of the Main Street building and went ahead with her dream — with the help of many local volunteers.
“We feel like there is a real need for a bakery here,” she said. “People said they needed a gathering place and we hope we’re a place to fill that niche.”
The community’s enthusiasm was obvious the last few months because “every time we turned around, people were offering their help,” she said. “So we took them up on it. People just stopped and helped with whatever needed to be done to get the bakery ready.”
Saved from wrecking ball
The initial help, long before the Johnsons and volunteers arrived, started six years ago. That’s when a handful of locals approached Dakota Heritage Bank Branch President Don Foss seeking advice — and a loan.
They wanted to restore Union Block, the name for two adjacent buildings on Main Street that were built in 1890 and had been turned back to the county for taxes. Their motives were both historical and practical, as the Traill County Board of Commissioners had voted to demolish Union Block.
“I told them that it couldn’t be done,” Foss said. “I said ‘You’re all 65 years old — where are you going to get the energy?’ But they pulled it off.
“This group brought spirit, muscle and optimism to a task many people felt was impossible.”
Bruce and Marilu Person, Dallas and Mary Ann Boeddeker, Duane and Shirley Nysveen and Marlene Diehl were the mainstays in forming the nonprofit Hillsboro Community Partnership. The HCP had two major tasks.
One was fundraising. Records show that they raised $223,806.01, approximately split evenly among grants and countless fundraising events big and small, but mostly small.
The other job was doing the physical labor to stabilize the structure. Early in the work, Bruce Person went through the rotting floor on the second level. It took a year to make the building sound.
“It was important to do,” Person said. “Once a downtown building in a small town is gone, the downtown keeps deteriorating.”
The hope is that the bakery will attract traffic to a block that once housed The Johnson Store, a chain of department stores located in Class B towns.
A new slogan, perhaps?
Demand exceeded supply Friday at Our Town Bakery, with Amanda Johnson unable to keep up because of the curiosity and appetite of her visitors.
She hopes that the bakery, with seating for 15, will become a spot for coffee and, eventually, breakfast and lunch.
Hillsboro has embraced its position as a bedroom community for people who work in Grand Forks and Fargo with a slogan of being just “a cup of coffee away.”
If Friday’s interest is any indication, leaders may feel compelled to update the slogan to “a cup of coffee and a doughnut away.”
Call Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to email@example.com.